By Yoshay Lama Lindblom
the time I arrived on the road below the Argyll house, icy specks of rain had begun to patter on my
head and the sky had declared war in a low rumble. The erratic drops soon
turned into a soft drizzle as I took the small path leading to Mr. Collins'
house, that glissaded downwards just below the road. The turbid sky above
groaned and rumbled and occasionally a sliver of lightning slithered behind the
mournful clouds. A shuddering thunder filled the expanse and the soft drizzle,
gave way to an unforgiving downpour. It was clear that it was not just my heart
that raged. I reached Mr. Collins' house and entered using the back door and
headed towards my room directly. I understood that Mr. Collins was awake but I
had the least bit of intention to attract his attention.
in the room, I tore away the wet clothes and sat on the edge of my bed, bent,
entirely undressed letting the water drip on the floor from the tip of my nose.
The dying embers in the fire place crackled softly as I climbed between the
sheets with not a thread of clothing on my body. Despite being drenched in the
ice cold winter rain, I was burning with a peculiar kind of heat that seemed to
have ignited from somewhere in my chest. Along with the stifling heat, I felt a
rage that would not abate.
evaded me entirely, and I climbed out of the bed and spent most of the night
sitting on the ledge by the window watching the sky unleash its fury upon the
earth. I lit a candle and looked at myself in the mirror and was bewildered to
see a face of a stranger looking back at me. The amicable expression had been
replaced by dark knitted brows, under which a livid pair of eyes flickered
restlessly. There was a twist that had settled at the corner of my mouth that
looked like a disdainful smirk. Surprised as I was, however I was not disgusted
by it but on the contrary. I quite welcomed the reflection of the man that
stared back at me from the mirror. I lay my hand on the dull thin outline of
the mark at the centre of my chest and felt an odd sensation from it. The tips
of my fingers that lay upon the mark pricked as if by a dozen tiny needles
bringing back the memory of the terrifying intimacy that night.
the time morning broke through a tumultuous night with peaceful rays of the sun
caressing the casualties from the night, I was solemnly resolved to never again
feel the pangs of such a thing called love. Along with my resolve, I put a lid
on my affable nature and my cheerful disposition.
Collins was quiet during breakfast and I did little to humour him into small
talk. He raised his eyes from the cup of
tea he held and asked, "are you alright, Mr. Baxter"?
have never felt better, Mr. Collins" I answered without meeting his gaze. I ate
with a ravenous appetite and soon after breakfast, I felt the need to take a
walk in the tea gardens below so that I could walk away the heaviness of a
grand breakfast and create an appetite for lunch. Mr. Collins was engaged at
the Argyll house with the large party of guests from Darjeeling who had stayed
on since the night before. Lord Hamish Argyll and Miss Kate had wished for a
luncheon outside, and for a game of tennis in the quadrangle below the house,
and their wish naturally became Mr. Collins' command.
to my room to pick my coat and hat, and as I swung the door open, I noticed a
part of a white envelope that sneaked out from under the carpet. I picked up
the envelope and saw that it was addressed to me but there was no name of the
sender inscribed on the back of the envelope. I ripped open the envelope
immediately, extracting a single page letter and read its contents.
has come to my notice that, you have of late been exposed to an experience of a
queer nature at the Argyll House. At this point I would not like to disclose
how the matter happened to reach me, but I beg you to believe me when I state
that I am acquainted to your perplexity to a certain degree. I would further
like to strengthen your belief in the fact that there is an air of sinister
activity in the house that cannot be discerned by everybody's physical eye.
Much said, I require you to meet me tomorrow in the village, below Mr. Collins'
house. I shall be waiting for you by the school ??? the only one in the village.
If you do come then consider your doubts eased to a certain extent. If not,
then God be with you.
than surprised, I was rather curious to know what Mr. Collins' housekeeper had
to tell me, soI dashed towards the tea gardens. I found Miss Pennyla waiting
for me just outside an impoverished hut that carried the signboard of Rani
Girls School. "Queen's Girls
School". Miss Pennyla said pointing to the signboard. "Come Mr Baxter, let us
sit here and I request you to call me Pennyla. Just Pennyla."
followed Pennyla to a wooden bench outside the school overlooking a sharp slope
matted with tea bushes and was at once put at ease when the breeze blowing from
far below fanned the cold sweat away from my brows.
you for meeting me here Mr. Baxter and at such a short notice. I deeply
appreciate it." Pennyla looked earnestly at me with worry lines etched upon her
at all. The pleasure I must say, is all mine for I am more than eager to get to
the crux of this matter. I would very much like to know more about the nature
of the secrecy you wish so eagerly to impart to me." I said reassuring her of
my interest in the matter. She then drew her breath as if preparing for a long
speech and my undivided attention rested on what she had to say.
she narrated the history of the house, I listened with rapt attention but deep
inside I longed for her to unravel that particular part of the history that
held my sole interest.
my understanding of Pennyla's story, it seemed that, from the time the first
residents of the house had arrived from the remote highlands of Scotland, and
up until Lord Hamish Argyll's grandfather, Lord Alasdair Argyll's time, the
house had seen many peaceful years.
was during one of the grandest parties held at the house, thrown to honour General Lloyd's venture into the hills for
the opening of a sanatorium in 1852, that a strange creature had shown up among
the guests. When Pennyla spoke about her grandmother's account about a pair
of strange luminous eyes glowing like
hot embers, I felt as if the ground below me slide away under my feet. Pennyla
paused here to give me a brief account of her family's own history because it
was inevitably tied to the history of the house itself. The women in Pennyla's
family had served the house since the beginning of its existence and it was her
grandmother who, as a kitchen maid, had sneaked up the stairs to get a glimpse
of the curious gentleman, the sight of whom had rendered the footmen speechless
and in want of brandy, downstairs.
never discovered the gentleman's first name, but I remember his surname had
something to do with crows." Pennyla said kneading her fingers on her temples
as if to churn forward the name of the gentleman. The name of Lord Crowton reverberated
in my mind and the memory of a smouldering pair of eyes glowing with uncanny
light, floating towards me in the dark night, flashed across my mind and I
bolted upright. "Are you alright Mr. Baxter?" Pennyla's voice trembled as her
eyes grew wide upon seeing me bolt up from where I sat. "Pennyla, do you have
any knowledge of how old this man was during the time?" I gasped. Pennyla
mulled over my question trying to remember what more she could. "I am certain
that he was not a very young gentleman, for my grandmother wailed and harped
often on the note that the devil must have surely taken the lord over to make
him strike friendship with such a ghastly creature." The same ghastly creature
who now lunches and dines with Lord Hamish and Kate, I reflected. "A similar
kind of shadow has descended the house again Mr. Baxter. It was one of the
footmen tending at the party yesterday, who spoke of a very strange pair of
eyes. The rest, did not notice a thing and if you ask me how he alone came to
see what he saw, it is because he had the amulet."
cared not a bit about any amulet, but a very small part of me deeply desired to
run up to the house and rattle sense into Kate's head but a larger part of me
wanted Kate to suffer the repercussion of a self inflicted fate. Therefore, I
sat rooted and felt a strong wave of pleasure shiver through me, when in my
mind's eye I saw a dark shadow engulfing her.
have come here to warn you Mr. Baxter. Do not tamper with the house. Leave
while you can. Save yourself from the misery of an irrevocable affliction."
could I? I thought. I was already a part of this irrevocable affliction. The
thing that had shivered and shifted in the dark into Lord Hamish that night,
was an unfathomable mystery itself to me but I was utterly convinced that the
connection between Lord Hamish Argyll and Lord Crowton spanned generations
stretching over the brightness of all good things and beings, adumbrating the
innocent and the good with imminent calamity. What of Mr. Collins? I thought and
before I mouthed the question she seemed to read my face.
Mr. Collins, I cannot say more than this that he belongs to those who have been
doomed for generations. He must stay here and take care of the house just like
his father before him and his father before. He cannot leave. We have a
relationship of which I am not ashamed and I have done my utmost best to keep
him under a spell of protection. He knows nothing of my endeavour to keep him
safe, so I urge you not to say anything to him in this light."
fished out a locket still hanging around her neck from under the layers of her
shawl and held it for me to see. "This" she said, "this safeguards our steps
and our souls when we are under the roof of the house, when we are under its
inevitable threat." She then tucked it in within the folds of the shawl and
placed her hand over it as if to make certain it did not jump out. "We believe in evil as much as we
do in good Mr. Baxter. We believe in magic and sorcery and we know that to
fight evil, we must resort to one. As long as we do not cross the line, we are
nodded but her words made less sense to me. I was a man of the new world and
superstitious balderdash certainly held no place in my intellect. I quickly
thanked Pennyla for enlightening me with her story and stood up to leave when I
realized that she held my hand and pressed something into my palm. She looked
at me with an expression as if beseeching me to listen to her, to believe her.
I pressed the amulet back into her palms expressing how sorry I was for not
being able to accept such a gift. She stood rooted while I started to walk back
to Mr. Collins' house. Surely, this was a world removed from mine and surely
these gentle people, majority of whom had not seen the dawn of literacy and
logical understanding must resort to beliefs based on irrationality, to
superstitions and to protect themselves, they must find remedies in folklore
passed on for generations. Where a medical practitioner failed, their witch
doctor gained. In their words, I had consorted with the devil for, the one I
had the immense pleasure of a physical union with, that night, had turned out
to be a thing from beyond this realm. Despite my dissent of amulets and witch doctors and local
superstition, I could not however, discard the fact that my experience at the
house was after all based on a supernatural event but I was most certain that
there had to be an explanation to all this, an explanation of a more cerebral
A shrill scream pierced my ears and the nested rooks suddenly dispersed from the trees over my head. I looked up towards the Argyll house and was startled to see an inky black patch of cloud rising from a point just above the house. Like a hurricane it seemed to funnel out into the evening sky. From where I stood I could only see the roof of the house rising beyond the trees. I rushed to Mr. Collins' house where I found him headed towards the Argyll house in great hurry. ???Something is wrong, something is very wrong,??? he mumbled as he quickened his pace leaving me panting at the gate. Instead of following Mr. Collins at his heels, I sauntered into the house in an easy manner, a strange calm settling over me. A hum escaped me as I climbed up the stairs and made my way to my room. I was no longer concerned for Kate's best interest. I had ceased to care what fate befell Kate at the Argyll House.
Image Credit - http://ssdema.deviantart.com/art/Forbidden-Mansion-265933025